By Rabbi Yisroel Ciner
This week's parsha, Toldos, begins with the births of Yaakov and Esav.
Right from the start they were two dissimilar individuals with very
different agendas: different desires, different aspirations, different
"Vayisrotz'tzu ha'banim b'kirbah (25:22)" - and the sons were 'running'
inside of her. Where were they running to?! Rashi brings the chaza"l that
each were running to different places. When she would pass a house of
idolatry she would feel the baby 'running', trying to exit and when she
would pass the study house of Shem and Ever she would also feel the baby
'running', trying to exit. The Kli Yakar explains that she, not yet knowing
that she was having twins, thought that the baby was being drawn after two
Forces. "Vatelech lidrosh es Hashem" - she went to get a clearer
understanding of the nature of Hashem.
"Vayomer Hashem lah shnei goyim b'vitnech... v'rav ya'avod tza'ir
(25:23)" - Hashem told her (via the prophet Shem) that she would have
two different nations... and the older would serve the younger. There
is only One Force in the world. However, you are having two sons, one
will serve this Hashem and the other will not. There will be an
eternal struggle for supremacy between them and ultimately, the older
will be subservient to the younger.
The children grew older, with Esav developing into a hunter, a man of
the field; and Yaakov developing into an "ish tam", an honest
forthright person, who dwelled in the tents of study. As Yaakov was
preparing a certain dish, Esav came in famished from the field.
"Hal'i'taini na min ha'adom ha'adom ha'zeh (25:29)" - pour some of
that red stuff down my throat - Esav demanded.
The medrash gives us a fuller picture of what transpired. Esav
questioned Yaakov about the significance of the dish he was preparing.
Yaakov answered that the elder (Avrohom) had died. (The dish was
special food served to a mourner, in this case, to their father
Yitzchak.) "Even Avrohom was hit with judgment?! Then there isn't true
judgment, nor is there a judge!", exclaimed Esav.
The Beis HaLevi asks why the death of Avrohom shook up Esav to such a
degree. He couldn't have thought that he would live forever! Hashem
had explicitly told Avrohom that his children would be enslaved but he
would be buried peacefully!
He explains that Avrohom was told that the enslavement would and could
only begin after his death. Therefore, the day of his death caused
Esav to be frightened - perhaps the enslavement would now begin. It
was known that only through one of Yitzchak's sons would this lineage
of Avrohom continue. The enslavement and the subsequent receiving of
the Torah would befall the son who would follow in the ways of
Avrohom. Esav saw this as his safety guarantee. Count me out! "There
isn't true judgment, nor is there a judge!" I'm willing to deny the
very existence of Hashem in order to safe myself from this
enslavement. (Sound familiar?)
Yaakov's response was "michrah ka'yom es bechoroscha lee (25:30)" -
sell me on this (fateful) day your birthright as the firstborn. You
don't need to deny the existence of Hashem to save yourself from the
enslavement! I am more than willing to go through the necessary
preparations in order to ultimately merit the Torah!
It is clear that Esav wanted no part of this birthright. However,
wasn't it worth far more than a bowl of soup!? Wouldn't this be
considered a 'mekach ta'us', a faulty transaction?
The following true story is used to answer that question: A very poor
man approached his Rebbe for a blessing to somehow get together the
money needed to marry off his daughter. The Rebbe blessed him and
instructed him to seize the first business opportunity that would come
his way. The man happily began his return trip home and stopped off at
an inn on the way. There he encountered a group of businessman sitting
and discussing different deals. As he tentatively approached them, one
of them laughingly called to him, asking if he wanted to make a deal.
Remembering the words of his Rebbe, he nodded affirmatively.
Appraising the financial situation of the pauper standing before him,
he mockingly offered to sell him his share in the world to come for
the hefty price of one ruble! With no hesitation the man agreed.
Amidst much laughter about how their friend was able to lift a ruble
from a pauper they drew up an official document and the transaction
was legally completed.
It was all laughs until 'Ralph' told 'Alice' about the deal he had
made. His wife was furious. "I refuse to remain married to a man who
has sold his portion in the world to come!", she exclaimed. "Buy it
back immediately!" He returned to the inn and nervously approached the
buyer. "All right, the joke's over now, I'll give you back the ruble
and we tear up the contract", he said hopefully. The man steadfastly
refused. "A deal's a deal and I won't renege." As far as he would
raise the price, he met only with refusal. With no other option, they
went back to his Rebbe, with the businessman hoping that the Rebbe
would convince the man to sell it back and thereby save his marriage.
The Rebbe heard both sides and said that there is no obligation to
reverse the transaction. However, for the sum of the full wedding
expenses of his daughter, I'll convince him to sell it back. The
desperate businessman readily agreed and he bought back his share in
the world to come (and his marriage).
The businessman then approached the Rebbe and challenged him as to the
justice of his decision. "How could you make me pay thousands of
rubles for something that was sold for one ruble just the day
before?!", he asked. The Rebbe smiled and explained: "Every thing is
sold for its true present value. When you made a joke of your portion
and sold it for a ruble, it was hardly worth even that. Once you
recognized that your marriage depended on it, its true value soared to
As the passuk states: "Va'yivez Esav es ha'b'chorah (25:34)" - Esav
scoffingly degraded the birthright. Although he later recognized the
true value of the birthright, at the time of the sale, in Esav's eyes,
Yakkov's bowl of soup was a ridiculous overpayment!
Later in the parsha, Yaakov receives the blessing that he had
rightfully purchased, urged on by his mother Rivka, who knew
prophetically that the blessings were to be his. "Va'yiten l'cha
HaElokim mi'tal ha'shamayim u'mishmanei ha'aretz (27:28)" - and Hashem
will give you from the dew of the heavens and the fat of the land.
Esav then furiously rushes in and pleads "ha'low atzalta lee b'racha
(27:36)" - haven't you left any blessings for me?! Yitzchak tells him
that there is nothing left but then says "mishmaney ha'aretz yihyeh
moshavecha u'mi'tal hashamayim me'al (27:39) - on the fat of the land
you will dwell and from the dew of the heavens above.
The Chofetz Chaim asks that these two blessings seem to be almost
identical! What are the real differences between them? He explains
that firstly, the order is reversed. By Yaakov, the heavens are
mentioned before the earth. Yaakov's life and actions emphasized the
eternal as opposed to the fleeting. Esav, as we saw earlier, was
willing to forfeit the heavens for a serious chunk of the earth. By
him the fat of the land was mentioned first
The second difference is pointed out by Rashi. Yaakov's blessing was
that Elokim would give him. Elokim refers to the attribute of justice.
Everything that a descendant of Yaakov does or doesn't get is measured
by Hashem with perfect justice. From this the Chofetz Chaim learns
that a person should never complain about the portion that Hashem has
allotted (or alittled) him. We must trust that if wealth would be
beneficial to us, then Hashem would surely give it to us. If he
hasn't, it's because our present state is the best possible
environment for us. Fortunate is the person who isn't subjected to
The Chofetz Chaim once asked someone how he was doing. The answer was
a response that I'm sure many can relate to: things could be better -
I could use a bit more. "How do you know that a bit more wouldn't make
things worse?", challenged the Chofetz Chaim! Hashem is totally
compassionate, knows much more than we do and certainly has the
ability to give more. If He isn't giving, that means that things
couldn't be better!
May we prioritize between heaven and earth, see and appreciate the
blessings that we have and allow our lives to be truly 'heaven on
Copyright © 1997 by Rabbi Yisroel Ciner
and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author teaches at Neveh Tzion in
Telzstone (near Yerushalayim).